60th Annual Wisconsin Aviation Conference Addressed Pressing Issues & Recognized Accomplishments

LA CROSSE, WIS. – The Wisconsin Aviation Conference celebrated its 60th anniversary at the La Crosse Center in La Crosse, Wis., May 11-13, 2015, along the beautiful Mississippi River. The event attracted airport managers, airport commission members, aviation business owners and operators, and corporate flight department managers and professional pilots. The Wisconsin Airport Management Association, Wisconsin Aviation Trades Association, Wisconsin Business Aviation Association, and vendors and consultants, sponsored the event.

Topics started out with updates from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Wisconsin DOT Bureau of Aeronautics.

Wisconsin Aeronautics Director David Greene and staff members Mark Arnold, Scott Brummond and Keith Gerard reviewed accomplishments over the past year and current activities in airport development, engineering, technical services, and finance. FAA Great Lakes Regional Administrator Barry Cooper discussed budget issues, progress and challenges of the NextGen air traffic control system, and unmanned aerial systems (UAS), which seemed to get the most questions from attendees.

A breakout session on the “non-aeronautical use of hangars” concerned many who strongly object to FAA’s limitations. Another breakout session that attracted much smaller numbers, was on the strategic redesign of Volk Field’s special activity airspace. Volk Field officials say they want to make the airspace more efficient to the benefit of all airspace stakeholders.

Other topics included maintaining airports of every size; executive over-flight issues and resources for airport operators and commissioners; decline and retention of airline service; pending changes to airmen medical requirements; a proposal to establish and enforce mechanic liens; limited and unlimited opportunities for airport revenues by small airports; managing, storing and pricing of aviation fuel, considered to be the lifeblood of airports and aviation businesses; and the pilot shortage and how this is affecting the entire aviation community.

The significant accomplishments and contributions by aviation professionals over the past year and over a lifetime were celebrated.

Among those persons recognized were Don Winkler of Madison, Wisconsin, who received the “Lifetime Service Award.” Winkler was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, an air traffic controller, and most recently, the media relations representative and photojournalist at Wisconsin Aviation, Inc. in Madison.

Steve Opatik, project manager at Becher-Hoppe, Wausau, Wisconsin, was named “Engineer of the Year.”

Ben DeLeon, Deputy Associate Administrator of Airports with the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, D.C., was named “Person of the the Year.”

John Reed, who recently left Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, Wis. to accept the director’s position at Rochester International Airport, Rochester, Minn., received the “Distinguished Service Award.”

Chris Hubbuch of the La Crosse Tribune, La Crosse, Wis., received the “Blue Light Award For Excellence In Journalism.”

The Wisconsin Airport Management Association (WAMA) awarded two scholarships to students currently enrolled in an aviation degree field at a Wisconsin college or university, or who are residents of Wisconsin attending a college or university outside the state. Gretchen Eichstadt of Hales Corners, Wis., and Michael Peer of Oshkosh, Wis., were this year’s recipients. Eichstadt is in her third year at Minnesota State University – Mankato. Peer is taking online courses through the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh working toward a Bachelor of Science Degree in Aviation Management.

The 2016 Wisconsin Aviation Conference will be held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, May 2-4 (www.wiama.org).

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